A condition that develops when an individual’s body doesn’t have enough fluid (typically water) to carry out its normal functions. A person will typically get dehydrated when they lose more bodily fluid than they take in, such as by rigorous exercise with no water intake.
Common causes of dehydration include intense diarrhea, vomiting, fever or excessive sweating. Not drinking enough water during hot weather or exercise also may be the cause.
With mild dehydration, an individual can experience lightheadedness or dizziness, dry mouth, headache and thirst. When he or she is severely dehydrated, however, such symptoms as unconsciousness, little or no urination, rapid breathing, fever and low blood pressure may occur.
You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment. To help confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint the degree of dehydration, the doctor may order certain tests:
- Blood tests. Blood samples may be used to check for a number of factors, such as the levels of your electrolytes and how well your kidneys are working.
- Urinalysis. Tests done on your urine can help show whether you’re dehydrated and to what degree.
The most common form of treatment is through intravenous hydration, where fluids are pumped into a vein to provide the body with water and essential nutrients much more quickly than oral solutions do.